Mount Stupid

I first heard about the Dunning-Kruger effect at my previous job at the Google Digital Garage. It was in a course we taught on career goals and accurately identifying our own skills and abilities.

The effect talks about people starting off with zero confidence at the beginning of every new venture, worried that others will call them out as frauds for not possessing the skills required to get the job done.

A few months into the venture though, as they get comfortable with what they're doing, their confidence peaks and they might even consider themselves to be experts at what they do.

And then, they make their first mistake or hit their first big roadblock. That's what shatters all this newly gained confidence, bringing them right back to where they were before.

The next time they reach that peak in confidence, it would be because of dedicated time and effort being put into becoming actual experts in their fields.

That initial peak of deceptive confidence you see right there is called "Mount Stupid", and on Tuesday, almost two months into my new job, I fell down my own peak into a valley of despair.

I was in a meeting and we were going around the room introducing ourselves to some new faces that had joined us recently. A lot of people are relatively new on this project so it's standard practise to mention when you joined and what you've learned so far. When it was my turn, I said, "Hi, I'm Ankita and although I joined the same day as my manager, I don't have her level of knowledge or confidence or..."


And just like Rachel when she tried to tell Ross that she loved him right after his divorce with Emily was finalised, I had an out-of-body experience.

The sane me floated above my body feeling horrified for the talking me but there was nothing to be done while everyone patiently waited for me to stop putting myself down. My manager, who is an overall superstar by the way, even stepped in to say that that was not true and that I was a very organised and valuable member of the team. This further made me realise that not only had I gone off the rails with my self-deprecation, but also I'd put her in the awkward position of having to come and defend me. Me, a twenty-eight year old grown-ass woman who just two days prior to this incident, had felt like she was good at her job.

As I'm writing this now, I'm starting to wonder if this is in fact the Dunning-Kruger effect. Was this incident in the meeting room the defining moment where my confidence dropped to a new low or was it an indication of my insecurities reaching a new peak?

I'm told that everyone experiences this from time to time but more often than not, it's women who engage in negative self-talk related to their abilities at work. A friend of mine told me recently that in the midst of an unfair attack from her boss, her immediate defence came in the form of putting herself down. And I'm certain that many of you reading this right now will have similar stories to share in the comments below.

So here's what we're going to do. We're going to work hard. Not only on our skills and abilities but also our minds to filter out these self-deprecating thoughts. We're consciously going to avoid saying mean things about ourselves to others. In fact, we're going to take it a step forward and avoid even thinking those mean things.

And it's going to be the hardest thing any of has done in a while.

Good luck! :)